EBENSBURG- A Cambria County woman, who’s house was on fire on Saturday, had to wait a little longer for help.
6 News is learning there was an error in the 911 system, sending firefighters first to the wrong home.
The fire happened on 129 Union Street in Ebensburg but 911 Robbin Melnyk said the system showed the home in Cambria Township.
That’s about an eight-mile difference.
The homeowner, Bonnie Prevost, said she was in such shock about the fire, that when 911 asked her if Cambria Township was the correct address, she said yes.
Dispatch- 911 What’s the address of your emergency?
Caller- 129 Union Street. My house is on fire.
Dispatch- What township, city or borough is it in?
Dispatch- Repeat the address for verification.
Caller- 129 Union Street.
Dispatch- I have 129 Union Street, Cambria township, is that correct?
“911 asked me if it was in Cambria township and I was so upset that I did say I was calling from Cambria township,” said Prevost.
“Our Cambria 911 center quickly realized there was a mixup in the addresses and was able to relocate us to the correct location,” said Mike Sheehan, Dauntless Fire Company fire chief.
“During 911 calls, we find maybe five to 10 times a year with Verizon’s database where the information displayed is not correct to what caller is giving us,” said Melnyk.
While Prevost was waiting for the fire department, she told 6 News she went back inside her home.
911- Bonnie. Get out of the house, Bonnie.
Caller- I got to get a couple things.
911- Ma’am don’t get a couple things. Just get out of the house.
During the 911 call, you can hear Prevost tell dispatchers she had a fire extinguisher and had wanted to go back inside and use it.
“A fire extinguisher, you need to be trained. You need to be very well trained,” said Sheehan, “They’re only as good as much as you know how to use them.”
911- Bonnie, do you hear me?
Caller- I’m right here.
911- Just leave the area immediately. Once you go outside, don’t go back in under any circumstances.
“I went back into the house. I did that to get some pictures,” said Prevost, “She’s telling me, don’t you go back into that house!”
Melnyk said having an error in the system is rare.
“We know it’s not a guarantee that the information is correct that’s displayed. That’s why we always ask the caller what the address is,” said Melnyk.
Despite the error, Sheehan said firefighters were able to get to the correct home quickly and put out the flames.
“We can replace any material in a house. It’s replaceable. Your life is not,” said Sheehan.
On Tuesday, ServPro crews were at Prevosts’ home cleaning out the damage.
“There’s heavy smoke damage throughout the entire house,” said Prevost.
Sheehan said the fire was electrical in nature and was ruled accidental.
He said luckily, Prevost had just changed the batteries in her smoke detectors.
“The owner of the house actually just replaced the batteries not too long ago in those detectors. It’s recommended at least twice a year to change the batteries in your detectors,” said Sheehan.
Prevost said the fire may have started from a power strip overheating. She told 6 News she had her TV plugged into a power strip, among other things.
“When I went out in hall I saw smoke. I came downstairs and saw fire behind the TV. The wall was on fire,” said Prevost.
Sheehan reminds not to plug in heaters, air conditioners or big appliances into a power strip, as it is a fire hazard.
“They did a great job, everybody was wonderful,” said Prevost.
Melnyk is urging residents to try to remain calm during an emergency and be sure to listen to the questions asked by dispatch so they can send emergency crews to the right place.